Bob Newhart's Vermont was a bucolic place in which simple, wholesome folk were busy, well, ending up at the inn. But the Reagan-era preppies who worked there bore little resemblance to the independent and hard-to-peg real Vermonters, especially those who live in the artsy-crunchy southeast corner near Brattleboro. The region has a left-leaning feel, with a big lesbian culture and more writers and artists than you can shake a stick at. What drew many of these people away from urban living is the slower pace, sense of community, and sheer natural beauty around them -- all of which come together in the wonders of the Rock River.
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Running between Dummerston and Newfane, the Rock River is both clear and clean, an unspoiled respite from the world. Patrons park their cars along Route 30 (you'll see the informal parking lot) and hike to the spot of their choice. Easiest is the family-friendly and generally clothed spot under the bridge or, just upriver, a cliff-jumping spot popular with local teens. Forested hills rise dramatically on both sides of the river, offering a sense of privacy -- and if you are willing to hike a little farther, the perfect place to shed your clothes and your inhibitions. Your options include a mostly straight nude spot and, farther along, a mostly gay nude section (which is mostly locals weekdays, but gets a little cruisy on weekends). There's no culture of beauty or body obsession here, just people letting it all hang out and enjoying themselves. Though it's over two hours from Boston, the Rock River is worth it, offering a day of resting by limpid green pools, distracted only by breezes and birdcalls, a vision far more idyllic than anything Newhart ever imagined.
Rock River, Route 30, Dummerston, Vermont.